Long-Term Living, the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), The Center for Health Design, and The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) are proud to present the 14th edition of DESIGN/Environments for Aging. To encourage successful submissions to DESIGN and as a service to our readers, a brief discussion of the review process follows.

The behind-the-scenes review process is the yearly event that precedes the publication of DESIGN/Environments for Aging and the presentation of citations at the Environments for Aging Conference in March. The review of submitted projects usually occurs at the beginning of each year at a host site, traditionally a state chapter of the SAGE organization (Texas SAGE was the host this year). Each partner organization appoints representatives to participate in the weekend-long interactive review and discussion.

The multidisciplinary panel that gathers each year is composed of professionals from many aspects of aging including, but not limited to, care providers, architects, designers, regulators, academics, and researchers. During the review process, reviewers are instructed to review and rate the submissions based on the SAGE design principles and their own experience and area of expertise. The appointed reviewers change every year, which is important because it keeps new opinions and ideas flowing. The number of reviewers has varied over the years, but is usually around a dozen professionals.

SAGE has always prided itself on an interactive process in the review of submissions (discussion, discussion, discussion). Once the projects are reviewed and rated by the jury a discussion of citations and honorable mentions begins. A comparison of the top rated submissions often results in a debate of comparing apples to oranges based on project type and goals. The group presentation of possible citation-worthy projects and the discussion (often vigorous) between reviewers ensures that the selected winners will be notable and representative of state-of-the-art trends and/or innovation. The number of citations presented each year is flexible and is often supplemented with honorable mentions.

Andrew Lee Alden
Andrew Lee Alden

In general, we have not seen a project which excels tremendously in one category but does not as a whole contain state-of-the-art or innovative features. If so, that submission would be a candidate for a single feature submission (which we have done-but rarely). We have given a little leeway for some project types such as affordable senior housing, incorporating green design elements, and the creative reuse of existing buildings. The projects given leniency vary each year based on all of the submissions and the trends occurring in the industry.

The rejection rate, over the past few years, of submissions ranges from 10-20%. Submitters may be asked to resubmit if the information presented is incomplete or confusing. Adequately sized and annotated images and floor plans are a necessity and will help a submission’s success. The reviewers are experts at recognizing “marketing speak”-so submittals must be certain to have those most familiar with the project provide the information necessary for the submission package to avoid generalized statements.

Rejection from the review is guaranteed if the project is newly constructed with traditional side-by-side double occupancy rooms, or has a resident room toilet shared by four residents, or contains a large centralized nursing station at the intersection of double-loaded corridors (the “mother ship” should be a forgotten remnant of a bygone era). After the review, participants are sent a detailed list of jury comments, including positives and opportunities for improvement.

A few years ago, the submission process was converted to be Internet based, which helped to ensure consistency among the submitted projects. Likewise, the reviewing process continues to evolve. DESIGN 2011 will incorporate a new jury review process created to encourage an in-depth analysis of submissions and substantial reviewer commentary. Multiple reviewers read each submission; however, the depth of understanding has often been hampered by time constraints due to the limited weekend review process. In the future, each reviewer will be given virtual access to the submissions for two weeks before the actual weekend face-to-face interactive discussions. The ability to review each submission before the weekend discussion will help with individual project understanding. Each project is a representation of a worthwhile endeavor and should be given the appropriate amount of time to educate and enlighten those who review it.

With your help, DESIGN/Environments for Aging will continue to inspire those in the field of aging. We hope you will choose to be a part of the process by submitting projects, reading the publication, and continuing to contribute to the dynamic field of aging.D

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